Sunday, February 06, 2011

2011 Baton Rouge Winter Hummingbird Tour

For the past dozen years or so, Baton Rouge has featured a tour of homes in the Baton Rouge area that are hosting winter hummingbirds. What's a winter hummingbird, you ask? Well, hummingbirds are not supposed to be here in the winter time. In the east, our "standard" hummingbird is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which returns from Central America in ~March and stays til ~Oct. So when hummingbirds show up in winter...well, that's something special. It turns out that several western species of hummingbirds sometimes come to spend the winter with us. The most common is Rufous, but we also get Black-chinned, Buff-bellied, Calliope, Broad-tailed, and even more sparsely, Broad-billed, Anna's, or Allen's. So we've learned to keep an eye out and keep our feeders up.

About 30 folks showed up for the tour this year. We started the clear and chilly morning at the Davey's house looking for the elusive adult male Calliopes. They have excellent habitat, which means LOTS of dark and tangled places for tiny birds to hide. Finally spotted the Calliope in the winter honeysuckle - most everyone got a look. Usually this yard has a good number of birds, but it was quiet, hummer-wise, this year.

Moved to the Allen's house. There were so many hummingbirds here it was hard to keep track of them all! Many were banded and color-marked -- 11 have been "processed" in their yard -- but there were more that had no color marks and thus were unaccounted for! We saw at least 3 Buff-bellied hummingbirds for sure, 1 female Calliope, and assorted Ruby-throats and Black-chinned besides. The Baltimore Oriole was a treat, too!

Then on to the Leblanc's home where the Rufouses were dueling it up! Joan had taken the feeders down in the front so we were able to stand in the backyard and have good views of the birds vying for the feeders. Highlight was a hummer in the hand. An immature male Ruby-throat was on the feeder and someone said "It flew down to forage in the grass under the feeder." Um...not a common practice for hummingbirds. After a minute or so, Ryan Terrill walked over and picked up the tiny torpid bird and gave it a little mouth to mouth (not really -- he just held it and breathed warm air on it) and before long it flew away -- lived to fuss another day!

Our last host home was the Schutte home in south Baton Rouge which backs up to a large swampy area. There were several birds here, including a feisty molting male Rufous, and we picked up our last species for the day -- Broad-tailed hummingbird.

So happy that the 30 or so tour participants got to see the birds they wanted to see - especially to Steve and Cindy who made the trip from Houston to see the birds! Many, many thanks to our hosts, to Dennis Demcheck for lending his advice and leadership, and to Kevin Morgan for the up-to-date bird info. We look forward to next year!